Integrated Pest Management for the Home

Cockroach on a granite kitchen counter

Blasting pesticides is a common method used to get rid of cockroaches in the kitchen, but it’s not a lasting solution. Get to the root of your pest problem with Integrated Pest Management for the home. 

With Integrated Pest Management (IPM), you prevent pests by making your home less appealing to them. 

For example, one way to get rid of cockroaches and ants with IPM is to eliminate their sources of food and water around your home. IPM uses this kind of strategy to minimize the use of chemical pesticides, making it a safe and eco-friendly approach. 

From wiping kitchen counters to repairing leaking pipes, here’s how you can practice integrated pest management for the home: 

What is Integrated Pest Management?

Integrated Pest Management is a pest control approach that involves common sense and new habits to make your home less attractive to pests. For example: If you want to get rid of cockroaches  – and keep them away from your home – get rid of their food and water sources.  

Another core factor of IPM is minimal pesticide use. Pesticides are used as a last resort in an IPM program such as when pest activity reaches an intolerable level you previously established. 

If and when pesticides are used, they are applied in a safe and responsible manner that protects the health of humans, pets, wildlife, and the environment. 

An IPM plan can be practiced anywhere where pests exist, including the lawn, home, and garden. 

8 Ways to Practice Integrated Pest Management in Your Home

Pesticides are a quick and convenient way to get rid of roaches and ants in the cupboards, but chemical sprays and traps don’t provide long-term protection. Pests in your home usually signal an underlying problem that pesticides alone can’t address. The underlying issue might be food crumbs on the floor, dirty dishes in the sink, or a leaking pipe behind the wall. 

That’s where IPM comes in. A good IPM plan targets these pest attractions so pests no longer gravitate to your home. From washing dirty dishes to mopping the kitchen floors, there are conscious decisions you can make and new habits you can form to deter pests in search of food, water, and shelter. 

Photo Credit: Himanshu Sharma / Pexels

1. Identify the Pests in Your Home (Know Thy Enemy)

Correctly identifying your pest – there are a handful of bugs that look like termites, for example – is an essential part of an effective IPM strategy. Once you know which pest is frequenting your home –– perhaps a cockroach or a mouse –– learn everything you can about its eating habits, behaviors, and ideal habitat. 

Understanding your enemy allows you to determine which IPM control measures will work best. Since no pest control method is guaranteed to work against every pest, you must tailor your pest control plan to the scampering or scurrying pest that has invaded your kitchen, bedroom, basement, or attic. 

2. Remove Your Pest’s Food Sources

Food is one of the biggest pest attractions in your home. A few crumbs on the floor might seem insignificant to you, but they can be a buffet for hungry pests, like ants, cockroaches, and mice. 

Here are some simple IPM habits you can practice in your kitchen and dining room that will actively remove a pest’s food sources: 

  • Wipe the kitchen counters after preparing food.
  • Wipe the dining table after eating.
  • Sweep the kitchen floor when crumbs get on the ground. 
  • Mop up food spills.
  • Store food in airtight containers.
  • Wash dirty dishes as soon as possible.
  • Clean pet food bowls at the end of the day.
  • Store compost and trash in sealed bins or containers.

Pro Tip: If ants have been crawling on your kitchen counter, spray the counter with a solution of half water and half vinegar. The vinegar helps wipe out the scented trail foraging ants leave behind for other ants to follow. 

3. Get Rid of Standing Water

If pests are going to camp in your home for the long term, they’ll need water. Make your home less inviting by removing a pest’s water source. 

Here’s what you can do: 

  • Hire a plumber to replace or repair leaking pipes and faucets.
  • Fix condensation problems by improving air circulation or ventilation.
  • Repair roof leaks.
  • Look for water damage in your attic and basement.

Standing water, aka stagnant water, is a huge attraction for many pests, especially mosquitoes. What to do: Don’t leave open containers of water sitting around your home for too long without cleaning them. This includes your pet’s water bowl, dishes that have been “soaking” in the sink for a week, or a bucket you’re using to catch drips from a leak.

Photo Credit: Liliana Drew / Pexels

4. Make Your Pest’s Habitat Less Inviting

Find out where your pest prefers to take shelter in your home, and make that space less inviting.

Here are some ways you can make your home less hospitable for your enemy pest: 

  • Sweep or vacuum underneath and behind furniture (scorpions and spiders often hide in undisturbed areas). 
  • Organize clutter, especially boxes and belongings in the basement or attic.
  • Repair areas with water damage.
  • Store firewood away from your house and only bring it indoors when ready for use, as many pests take shelter in a firewood pile and sneak their way into the house from there.

5. Block Your Pest’s Entryways

How are pests sneaking into your house? Mice can squeeze through cracks the width of a pencil. A cockroach can squeeze through a crevice as small as a quarter of its body height

Keep these critters from sneaking into your house by creating exclusion barriers: 

  • Seal cracks and crevices with caulk.
  • Install mesh screens over large gaps.
  • Fix window screens and door screens.
  • Install door sweeps.
Photo Credit: Liliana Drew / Pexels

6. Keep Your Home Clean, Make Needed Repairs Fast

How long will you avoid the soap and sponge when dishes pile in the sink? How quick are you to call the plumber when a pipe starts leaking? 

An IPM program won’t be effective if you’re not vigilant about keeping your home clean or keep putting off needed repairs around your home.

The bottom line: Good cleaning habits and regular home maintenance are crucial for IPM to get rid of your bug problem and keep them from coming back. 

7. Monitor Pest Activity

Noticing more bug bites in the morning? Seeing more mouse droppings? The last thing you want is a pest population to grow right under your nose. If you’re not observant, a pest infestation can become a severe and expensive problem. 

Monitoring pest activity allows you to: 

  • Stop a pest infestation from ballooning in size before it’s too late.
  • Act fast and stop further pest damage.
  • Stop pests from coming into your home. For example, protect your home by checking new furniture for bed bugs before bringing it indoors.
  • Set sticky traps and bait stations where activity is high.

8. Create a Threshold for the Use of Pesticides

As you develop your IPM plan, decide how much pest activity is too much to tolerate. Why? Because once a pest problem exceeds this threshold, IPM warrants the use of pesticides. 

On the other hand, if the pest activity does not exceed your previously established action threshold, stick to your IPM plan as best you can. 

If and when you treat the area with pesticides, do so in a manner that protects the environment, pets, wildlife, and human health. 

Here are some tips on how to apply pesticides safely: 

  • Read and follow all instructions on the pesticide label, even if you are familiar with the product. Misusing a pesticide is illegal and unsafe. 
  • Perform spot treatments in areas where you know there is pest activity. Avoid applying pesticides where there is zero pest activity. 
  • Use organic pesticides instead of synthetic pesticides. Organic pesticides are typically safer for the environment than synthetic pesticides, although they can still be toxic to humans and pets if ingested. 
  • Combine pesticides with other IPM practices. Just because you’ve reached your action threshold doesn’t mean you should stop performing your other IPM techniques. 
  • Apply the right kind of pesticide to get rid of what’s bugging you. Otherwise, you risk using unnecessary chemical controls that are useless. 
  • Hire a professional exterminator who is trained to apply pesticides in the safest way possible. 

FAQ About Integrated Pest Management 

1. What Are the Pros and Cons of Integrated Pest Management?

IPM is highly effective at preventing pest infestations with little to no pesticides. It protects the environment, saves money in the long run, and solves the root of your pest problem. 

However, IPM does have its drawbacks. It can take time to learn and sometimes involves trial and error. 

✓ Slower development of pesticide resistance
✓ Reduces risk to people and pets
✓ Balanced ecosystems and protected biodiversity
✓ Infestations are less likely to occur
✓ Minimal pollution
✓ Saves money in the long run
✗ Trial and error
✗ Takes time to learn
✗ Habits are hard to change
✗ Hefty upfront cost (sometimes)
✗ Physically demanding

2. Can Integrated Pest Management Be Applied to Lawn Care?

The best way to practice IPM for the lawn is to take good and regular care of your lawn. From mowing the lawn to aerating soil, good lawn care encourages a healthy lawn that’s less attractive to pests. 

3. How Can I Practice Integrated Pest Management for the Garden?

Are aphids or other pests ruining the vegetables in your home garden? IPM for the garden calls for multiple techniques, including: 

  • Identify the pest and learn its life cycle (some organic pesticide applications only work during a specific stage of a pest’s life cycle)
  • Monitor pest activity
  • Grow pest-resistant plant varieties in your garden
  • Install a drip irrigation system
  • Use selective, organic insecticides that protect beneficial insects, such as bees, butterflies, and other pollinators
  • Build a fence or barrier around the garden
  • Use natural enemies as biological control; for instance, order ladybugs shipped to your door to help control aphids

When to Call a Pest Control Pro

When – despite your best IPM effort – pest damage and activity becomes severe, you’ll need the skills of a local pest control exterminator

And if you’re dealing with termites or bed bugs, those are two pests you don’t want to handle alone. 

Turning to the pros doesn’t mean you failed your IPM program –– applying pesticides and calling in a pest control pro should be part of your pest control plan.

Main Photo Credit: Nurg / CC BY-SA 4.0 / via Wikimedia Commons

Jane Purnell

Having lived in the rural countryside and bustling city, Jane Purnell is familiar with a wide variety of critters sneaking into the home, including mice, spiders, cockroaches, snakes, and stink bugs. She practices a proactive approach (Integrated Pest Management) to keep pests out of her home.